A million people will be living with dementia in less than 10 years time / AFP

During Dementia Awareness Week, Dr Doug Brown from Alzheimer's Society lists five lifestyle changes to improve future cognitive health

Mediterranean Diet

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There is evidence suggesting that a ‘Mediterranean diet’, which contains lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, olive oil, nuts, fish, low in saturated fat can reduce the risk of dementia. A number of studies have also concluded that having a high intake of unsaturated, unhydrogenated fats might help to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Exercise

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It is well established that regular physical exercise is an important way to reduce your risk of developing dementia. By keeping fit you make sure your brain has a good, strong blood supply, which is essential to help it function better now and in the future.

Stop smoking

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Smoking has an extremely harmful effect on the heart, lungs and vascular system, including the blood vessels in the brain - increasing the risk of developing vascular dementia. Recent research has shown that smoking is a significant risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, with smokers almost twice as likely to develop the disease as non-smokers.

Keep your brain active

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Increasing evidence now suggests a brain workout could also be useful for your cognitive health. Demanding mental activity appears to help protect your memory later in life, but it's important to note this isn't the same as protecting against dementia. More research and bigger studies are needed, but in the mean time reading more, taking up a new hobby and doing crosswords can be enjoyable and certainly won't do you any harm.

Get a good night’s sleep

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A number of studies in the past few years link the quality and duration of sleep to cognitive health. Research has found that those who slept less efficiently were more likely to have amyloid plaques in their brains – a major hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society

Dementia Awareness Week runs from 17th - 23rd May. To find out more visit www.alzheimers/org.uk/daw Alzheimer’s Society have a national helpline and you can call them on 0300 222 11 22

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